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How much evidence is enough?

 
 
sumac
 
Reply Sun 8 Dec, 2002 08:18 pm
http://www.cnn.com/2002/TECH/science/12/07/polar.warming.ap/index.html

Shrubs growing and spreading on the Alaskan tundra, and other examples of global warming, given at meeting of scientists of the American Geophysical Union. The warming trend is real, and human societies are still thought to play a pivotal role.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 0 • Views: 2,055 • Replies: 15
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Dec, 2002 03:08 pm
Given that the world was a much warmer place three thousand years ago than it is today, this does not constitute proof that anything unusual is going on. Beginning in about 1200, people in the northern hemisphere noticed that the climate was getting colder, and began to engage in all the activities--producing warmer clothing; building castles, houses, huts which were easier to heat and retained heat; glazing windows--which eventually lead to what is called the industrial revolution. By 1600, lakes in northern Scotalnd were freezing over by the end of August. The world has been warming since about 1750. What you allude to may show that the world is continuing to warm, but does not prove that there is a crisis at hand. I don't deny that an extraordinary warming is taking place--i am saying that it is not proven.
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sumac
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Dec, 2002 06:46 pm
No, I'm not using the crisis word, and absolute proof of something is bloody hard to come by, BUT, as a plant person, a shrub newbie takes years of life to become a full grown shrub, with the ability to reproduce, and spread. Without being killed every winter. Now that is strong evidence of warming, if nothing else.
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maxsdadeo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Dec, 2002 07:48 pm
When this old ball starts spittin' lava, then I will be convinced of it's warming.
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Wilso
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Dec, 2002 05:58 am
In the the previous seven hundred thousand years there have been 11 episodes of global warming. However, previous corrections did not have to occur while 6 billion people were spewing pollution into the environment. We are in BIG trouble.
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blatham
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Dec, 2002 08:17 am
Setanta

I think you demand a level of 'proof' which will not be available except in retrospect. The more complex a system studied, the more we must deal with probables rather than certainties.

It is now fair to say that the preponderance of the scientific community who have appropriate address to this issue (climatologist, geoscientists, etc) have come to hold that the warming cycle we are in is real and is at least partly man-made.

As you'll recall, several months ago, Bush's own scientific council said precisely that, adding that the consequences are likely to be significant to human habitation (Bush's response was that Americans are good at coping, so no big deal).

Also, though Lomborg's popular book (which argued that this is all foolishness and bad science) is still being advanced by (mainly) the business community, the journal Science, the journal Nature, and Scientific American all thought matters critical enough to publish special issues contradicting the science and the claims made by Lomborg. I know of no precedent issue for these three respected scientific publications.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Dec, 2002 05:00 pm
And i know of no Lomborg, and assure you that i've not read any such book. I'm not demanding a standard of proof, and i'm not demanding anything, in fact. I do recall that as recently as 25 years ago, many scientists were saying we were headed into a new ice age. The response was rather ho-hum. However, when a threat of global warming was posited, the government grants for long, expensive and well-paying research began to fall from heaven as manna. Pardon me for being sceptical of the motives of university researchers. Much of the data to support the contention of a trend toward global warming comes from records of weather agencies around the world, which, typically, operate in or near the "heat islands" of cities. Add to that the fact that such data has only been collected for about a century, and only collected on a world-wide reliable basis for considerably less time than that, and my scepticism only grows. In fact, i consider Sumacs report about shrubbery (with or without little white fences) to be a more significant bit of evidence than statistical data of a questionable provenance.

Quote:
The more complex a system studied, the more we must deal with probables rather than certainties.


I heartily agree--and we know precious little about how the entire climate system works. Scientists have only recently begun to study the part which the oceans play in this very complex system. Basically, i think that there are three main points to consider: Who immediately benefits most and in what manner from attention being focused on this issue? The answer to that is the members of the scientific community (most of whom are academics obliged to justify their research in order to get local or governmental grants) upon whom we depend for answers to the questions raised. The next point is historical: What information do we have about climate in the past, and what does it suggest to us? For this, i think the issue of what does it suggest is open to a lively, and heated (all punning is intended) debate. It is worth noting, as i did above, that the world was once, and, in geological terms, quite recently, a much warmer place than it now is. If this is accepted as an accurate description of what history has to offer on the subject, one is inevitably lead to the final issue: Has this trend reached a crisis level. Your point about the size of the human population of the planet is the most significant to me. If it can be definitely shown that disaster looms, then almost any measure is justified to reduce greenhouse gases. Do me the courtesy of not lumping me with the "business community" on this one, i simply pointed out in my first post here that nothing is proven, i did not say there can't be a problem, nor have i lined up with any statement made by the Shrub (heeheeheeheeheehee, shrub--get it?) on the subject. Most of all, i remain sceptical of the motives of people on both sides of this issue--too many constituencies, too many agendae.
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blatham
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Dec, 2002 06:49 pm
Setanta

Didn't mean to lump you in with the oil folks, not intended at all. Nor did I mean to suggest you were unthinking here. Let me see what I can dig up for you over the next day.

Bjorn Lomborg wrote a book several years ago (he's a statistician) which took the published scientific articles (some) on global warming to task. It was hugely successful as a publishing enterprise, and it is one of the main tools that the business community brings up in this context. Thought you'd know of it.
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ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Dec, 2002 07:16 pm
Quote:
What information do we have about climate in the past, and what does it suggest to us?


are you sure you want the answer to that?
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blatham
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Dec, 2002 08:07 pm
I suspect a conversation or two has taken place out of sight here.

Setanta...it occurs to me that if you don't grant credence to the scientific community here, any references I might bring forward would not likely be compelling.

You mention that some scientists spoke decades ago of a possible ice age. This situation is markedly different in the amount of research backing it up and definitely in the level of consensus from a very broad range of disciplines. Can we agree on that?

Too, I think that in your suggestion regarding climatological records affected by populated heat islands is incorrect in two ways, in the variance and amount of data which leads to GW conclusions, and also in the lack of scientific rigor you suppose.

And, though I'm a big fan of skepticism, I would argue with your skepticism where you posit that the scientific community might be merely hot on the trail of research monies. These monies are always available, and research is always being done. Also, there is surely as much money being directed towards findings that GW is NOT occuring. This is the money I'm more concerned about, as it has a vested interest in outcome, whereas university based research does not.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Dec, 2002 10:23 am
I'd not argue your points about vested interests, Boss--but i don't know that i'd agree with your statement that university-based research does not have a vested interest in outcome. To me, this controversy often has the look of an argument about whose ox has been or will be gored. I am very concerned that the government of my nation seems to be uncooperative with other nations on this issue--reducing green house gases is a good idea even if no warming crisis is at hand because it allows the planetary climate system to function in a "more normal" way. I am also concerned about the agenda of conservationist groups, as well, though. I often feel that such groups as the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy rush to conclusions, and do not think forward far enough about the consequences of their programs. For example, the Sierra Club has often opposed hydro-electric projects in the Third World, as being potentially destructive of habitat. However, the regular, heavy flooding in Bangladesh, which has worsened due to logging upstream, is a great human tragedy. Furthermore, without access to cheap electric power, many people in the Third World go into forests to gather wood for heating and cooking--which also destroys habitat. This also leads to a high incidence of pulmonary complaints and damage to the eyes of children due to the exposure to poorly ventilated smoke. As i have already mentioned, i am made suspicious by the number of constituencies and agendae in operation here, and really haven't much confidence in the quality of the thinking which goes into the various agendae.
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blatham
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Dec, 2002 07:58 pm
Setanta

I share your notion that elements within the conservation crowd (or the anti-free trade crowd, for that matter) are a bit struck with how pure their own thoughts are. And I do understand your worry that the scientific community can (in a general way) move with the winds and tides of fashion and funding. But your position leaves you, I think, with precious little that might help you make a decision on whether the problem is real or not. If you want, I can easily find credible publications...but it is no problem at all if other matters interest your more at present.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Dec, 2002 12:29 pm
Yes, other matters do . . . as i mentioned above, i would rather that everyone nullify this as an issue by reducing "greenhouse" gases, simply as a wise policy without regard to potential crises. I realize i came off looking badly here, i just reacted immediately to the thread on the basis of not enough being known, but parties on both sides being so assured of the "truth" of the matter . . .
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blatham
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Dec, 2002 06:50 pm
Setanta

Yes, badly, very very badly indeed. I can no longer bear to look at your avatar without wanting to put noxious compounds on the tongue.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Dec, 2002 06:52 pm
[hopefully]Noxious AND hallucenogenic?[/hopefully]
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blatham
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Dec, 2002 08:15 pm
Well, look at those eyes...the tilt of the head...communion with the Godhead for certain.
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